Town of Guilderland hopes to filter wells

Enterprise file photo — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

The Watervliet Reservoir is Guilderland’s major source of drinking water.

GUILDERLAND — The town is pursuing a state grant to install a greensand filtration system at its drinking water wells.

The grant is through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act; $400 million will be awarded in 2021-22. The deadline for submitting applications is 5 p.m. on Nov. 22.

Consequently, the town board on Thursday scheduled a public hearing for Friday, Nov. 19, at noon, to adopt a State Environmental Quality Review Act determination. This allows the required 30 days for comment between the board’s Oct. 19 adoption of the resolution and the public hearing.

Mary Beth Bianconi with Delaware Engineering, which is handling the application, explained that the town has three wells. One is used in the summertime when water use peaks in town; the other two wells are unused because they have high levels of iron and manganese.

At times in the summer, during peak draw, she said, the town uses more water from that single well than the half-million-gallon cap set by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

The grant, she said, would build a filtration system to give the town another source of water besides the Watervliet Reservoir, adding to its resilience.

“It’s a packed bed filter,” said Bianconi, explaining that the greensand in the unit binds with the iron and manganese to remove it from the water. The sand has to be replaced once it can’t be absorbed anymore.

“That’s a cost, but the benefit is the wells become useful and the quality [of water] is better,” she said, explaining that groundwater sources are generally less expensive than surface water sources like the reservoir and they are also more stable.

Bianconi said that the grant, if it is awarded to Guilderland, would cover up to 60 percent of the costs or up to $3 million, whichever is greater.

“I’ve always thought our charges are low … compared to other towns,” said Supervisor Peter Barber.

Rates are based on the number of users who can support the costs of a water system, Bianconi explained. Guilderland, she said, has a lot of users — over 27,000 people in 10,000 households sharing the costs. Her firm works with other communities that have just 200 users on a system so their individual rates are much higher.

This grant program is “very popular,” Bianconi said so the state will have a lot of applications to check. She anticipated Guilderland will know if it got the grant by “early in the new year.”


Rescue Plan spending

The board authorized spending American Rescue Plan funds from the federal government for:

— Three radio consoles for dispatch at a cost of $450,000. The current consoles, said Barber are “on their last legs” and the police chief and fire departments have been looking for some time to replace them;

— Security camera and door-access systems for $92,124.51. These will be placed in “various locations,” said Barber;

— A mobile presentation station for $5,776.93. This, too, has been requested for quite some time, said Barber, noting the station will be moved from department to department as needed. Councilwoman Laurel Bohl asked if if would help with virtual meetings; Barber responded that another item, to be announced at a later meeting, would help with that;

— Communication systems for the town’s parks department for $12,000. Barber said this would be useful for summer programs; and

— An integrated fuel system for the town’s emergency medical services for a cost of $16,592.

Barber said the town is keeping a close eye on the federal funds, allocated to deal with the pandemic, and that the items listed are all legal uses.


Two new officers

The town board filled two vacancies in the police department — one officer retired and another took a job with the State Police — by appointing Kristopher Scarano and Olivia Dibella.

Both Dibella and Scarano had worked for the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, which deputies often leave for higher-paying jobs at suburban departments.

Bohl asked if any minority candidates had applied to which Barber responded that Police Chief Daniel McNally always tries to find people of color and women. “He’s trying to diversify the force as much as possible,” said Barber, adding that it’s not easy to do.

A police reform plan adopted by Guilderland earlier this year says that, to promote racial justice and equity, a diverse workforce reflective of the community should be recruited.

Guilderland, a suburban town with a population of about 35,000, is 87.76 percent white and 3.46 percent Black, according to the reform plan. According to the federal census, it is also about 7 percent Asian.

The Guilderland Police Department employs 39 officers; none of them are people of color, the plan says. The department also includes three administrative office staff, 10 telecommunicators, and two animal-control officers.

“Based solely upon the Town’s demographic population of 3.5 percent black, the Police Department would meet racial metrics by having one black police officer,” the plan says. “But the Town’s goal is more than satisfying a statistic, and making the police force more diverse consistent with the community’s growing diversity.”

Councilman Paul Pastore, a liaison to the police department, said at Thursday’s meeting that the lack of minority officers on the Guilderland force is not because of a lack of effort; one officer of color chose not to accept the offer, he said.

He also said of Dibella and Scarano, “I was very impressed with both of them.”

Councilwoman Patricia Slavick, also a liaison to the department, noted that, with Dibella’s appointment, there are now four women on the Guilderland force.


Other business

In other business, the board:

— Heard from John Haluska that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation had removed the remaining toxic materials from the former Rustic Barn site at 4852 Western Turnpike. He asked if the town would work with the county’s land bank “to get a resolution of the Rustic Barn.”

Barber responded that the land bank’s director, Adam Zaranko, was looking for a close-out letter. He suggested the adjacent property owner might want to reach out to the county for a direct buy.

Two years ago, that adjacent property owner, Ryan Caruso, told The Enterprise he and his wife hoped to salvage the historic Dutch barn on the property and use it as a farm stand. Chemicals found on the property included petroleum and pesticides. The late Herbert Young had for years sold woodstoves, antiques, and lawn-care materials at the Rustic Barn;

— Approved settlement of the tax certiorari proceeding for tax years 2019, 2020, and 2021 for Hawthorne Gardens, at 1980-2008 Western Ave., and an apartment building located 3577-3581 Carman Road, with possible tax refunds of $10,515.65 and $1,324.55, as recommended by the assessor and the retained attorney.

The town’s appraisal for Hawthorne had been $11.3 million while Hawthorne’s appraisal was $8.3 million, said the town attorney, James Melita; the parties settled on $9.7 million, which he called “a good settlement.” He called the value set during the townwide revaluation process “guesswork.”

Barber said there is no way to compel apartment-complex owners to share their expenses so the assessor at the time, Karen VanWagenen, would go to the rental guide for prices and multiply by the number of units. “She would err on the side of making sure taxpayers were protected,” said Barber;

— Approved a lease agreement with the DISH network for placing an antenna on the Fort Hunter water tank; this is the fourth antenna on the tank. The company proposed $1,000, Melita said. “We were able to negotiate,” he said, to $1,500. The contract is renewable every five years;

— Authorized the town clerk and supervisor to sign a collector’s warrant for the water district for $647,573.35; and

— Adopted a resolution to recognize Nov. 27, as Small Business Saturday.


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